Canton FFA First year jacket recipients at the recent Pennsylvania State FFA Association Mid-Winter Convention at the Pennsylvania Farm Show on Jan. 8 included (above, from left) Jonah Gibble, Alyssa May, Kailey Frederick, Alli Morgan, Fayth Kilbourn, Savannah Bastian-Brown, and Aurora Groover. Below, Those involved in setting up a landscape display at the PA Farm Show were Canton FFA members Tyler Engel, Lucas Drever, Alexis McRoberts, Kathryne Kilbourn, Camille McRoberts, Charleigh Anderson, and Savannah Bastian-Brown.
Story by Rick Hiduk / Submitted photos
(Originaly published in the Daily Review)
Canton High School FFA members continued a time-honored tradition of designing and constructing a landscape display for the Pennsylvania Farm Show. According to FFA advisor Tom Hojnowski, the school has rallied around the annual project for at least 17 years, with the same departments, curricula, and some outside help brought into play to support the students’ endeavor. The display features a produce stand flanked by fields with crops commonly harvested in the autumn.
“The landscape encourages long-term planning of a major project where we can do plant science and landscape throughout the class year,” Hojnowski related. In addition to teaching the students plant care and time management, he added, “It also connects us with many local individuals who help to teach the content related to the project.” Hojnowski teaches a variety of science courses related to both agricultural and environmental studies and been FFA advisor since 2003.
Several students asked about the project agreed that finding the time to keep up with various aspects of it – especially growing the plants and keeping them alive – was the biggest challenge. Most of the FFA members are involved in other school activities and take on a full course load.
“A lot of us do things outside of school that didn’t leave us much time to work on our landscape,” sophomore and two-year FFA member Alexis McRoberts added, “but we came together to make it work.” Alexis is the daughter of Brandy and Eric McRoberts. Her sister was a team leader for the previous year’s landscaping display, and Alexis said she learned a lot from her.
Hojnowski indicated that older students mentoring underclassmen is a hallmark of the project. “We have a small group that heads up the committee of five or six, and they help to teach the newer members some of the responsibilities that it takes to carry through on a project.” Other leaders for this year’s undertaking included Tyler Engel, Lucas Drever, and Kathryne Kilbourn. “Some are stronger at laying out the design and materials needed for the overall landscape theme, and others are very strong and dependable in the long-term care of the plants and making sure things get done in a timely manner.”
“Successfully growing the plants was probably the most difficult part,” Lucas suggested, acknowledging that horticulture was not a strong suit of the students and that trying to care for the plants during weekend and holiday breaks produced mixed results. “However, we did not give up on it. If something was starting to go wrong, we would problem solve and correct it.” Lucas is the son of Richard and Brenda Drever and a senior in Canton’s agricultural program.
“We had some plants beginning to die, so we worked to remove the dead flowers and leaves,” said Savannah Bastian-Brown, a freshman and the daughter of Jennifer and Cory Brown. “I feel the produce stand is a big highlight. That and the rocks are the best features of the display.”
The idea of the produce stand was an easy sell by the committee, Lucas explained. “This year’s landscape theme was ‘PA Fall Garden Colors,’” he stated. “We figured that the produce stand with the surrounding crops and other plants would well fit the atmosphere that the theme creates in one’s mind.”
“With fall time as the theme, we incorporated the fun thing we like to do in fall with our families,” said Tyler, the son of Charles and Pamela Engel and a senior at Canton High School. He feels that the pergola and the live fruit and vegetables are among the display’s most outstanding features.
All of those interviewed have been to the PA Farm Show before, participating with the landscape displays and other projects. Savannah, for example, won third place in the gingerbread house contest the first year that she was there. FFA was cited by each as the catalyst for introducing them to America’s largest agricultural event under one roof.
“You learn a lot about responsibility and long-term planning in order to have a final product come together at the conclusion,” Hojnowski concluded. “Then, the pride factor of such an accomplishment accompanies their hard work and success and it brings notoriety to our small school and district.”
The students also put together an agricultural exhibit on soil health and had an opportunity to check in on and spruce their landscape display on Jan. 8 when they returned en masse to the Farm Show Complex on Jan. 8 to attend the Pennsylvania State FFA Association Mid-Winter Convention, where seven of the students received their official FFA jackets.
Celebrating the installation of the landscape display at the PA Farm Show in Harrisburg were (from left) FFA advisor Tom Hojnowski, student members Alexis McRoberts, Charleigh Anderson, Kathryne Kilbourn, Kailey Frederick, Alyssa May, Savannah Bastian-Brown, Alli Morgan, Aurora Groover, Tyler Engel, Lucas Drever, advisor Dr. Amy Martell, and Nick Troutman fron Sen. Gene Yaw’s office.